Ethics Complaint Filed Against Water Quality Control Commission Member McWilliams Related to Her Company’s “Produced Water” Interests

Complaint Seeks Investigation for Potential Violations of the Governmental Conduct Act, Financial Disclosure Act, and the Water Quality Act.

A group of advocates have filed a formal complaint with the New Mexico Ethics Commission charging a gubernatorial appointee to the state’s Water Quality Control Commission failed to disclose her interests in oil and gas businesses that could be affected by a proposed state rule before the water commission.

The Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) is conducting hearings on a controversial proposed new rule advanced by the administration of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, that could lead to reuse of produced wastewater outside of oil fields.

Produced water is described as “… water that comes out of the well with the crude oil during crude oil production. Produced water contains soluble and non-soluble oil/organics, suspended solids, dissolved solids, and various chemicals used in the production process.” – (From Fact Sheet of the Water Environment Federation, entitled Produced Water: Oil and Gas Terminology Glossary.”)

The complaint was filed by attorneys Mariel Nanasi and Christopher Todd on behalf of New Energy Economy, Samuel Sage, Daniel Tso, American Friends Service Committee – New Mexico, Citizens for Fair Rates and the Environment, Climate Change Leadership Institute, Common Ground Rising, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Earth Care, Honor Our Pueblo Existence (H.O.P.E.), Indivisible Albuquerque, Interfaith Worker Justice, Los Jardines Institute, New Mexico Social Justice Equity Institute, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Renewable Taos, Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens, Tewa Women United, and Youth United for Climate Crisis Action.

The filing asks the Ethics Commission, “to investigate the activities of Krista McWilliams, who … has conflicts of interest arising from her and her husband’s interests and affiliations with LOGOS Energy, LLC., … and investigate Ms. Williams for potential violations of the Governmental Conduct Act, Financial Disclosure Act, Water Quality Act, and other applicable statutes within your enforcement jurisdiction …” due to her involvement in hearings on a plan to change the rules on produced water.

(A pdf copy of the Ethics Commission Complaint is embedded at the end of this article)

Environmental organizations have expressed concern that the plan, fostered by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Secretary of the Environment Department, James Kenney, could create a gateway for produced water being used as an alternative for agricultural and commercial purposes.

Some proponents of the proposed rule anticipate treated produced water could be used for agricultural as well as industrial and commercial purposes.

Researchers affiliated with New Mexico State University revealed in a 2022 paper, that their “study created a framework for assessing the spatial and temporal distribution of the supply and demand of four potential produced water (PW) reuse options: agriculture, dust suppression, power generation, and river flow augmentation using Eddy and Lea counties in the southeastern New Mexico Permian Basin as a case study.”From: Spatiotemporal Analysis of Produced Water Demand for Fit-For-Purpose Reuse—A Permian Basin, New Mexico Case Study.” (Emphasis added.)

As The Candle reported on May 23, 2024, LOGOS has had “at least eighteen produced water spills … since Governor Lujan Grisham appointed McWilliams to the Water Quality Control Commission in April of 2019.”

One of the major spills of produced water was reported as recently as March 3, 2024.

Despite her affiliation with a company that generates millions of gallons of “produced water,” McWilliams stated at the WQCC hearing, “I have no conflicts of interest, professional or otherwise.”

McWilliams, who was originally appointed to the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) in 2019 by Governor Lujan Grisham, is a listed as the Vice President Of Operations Engineering for Logos Resources, LLC, a Farmington based oil and gas company.

Her husband, Jay Paul McWilliams, is the CEO and/or manager and a member of various oil related entities identified with LOGOS.

In reviewing records of the Oil Conservation Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, The Candle found 21 reported “produced water releases” by LOGOS OPERATING, LLC.

The cause of the spills included equipment failure, corrosion, repair and maintenance, overflow of tank, pit, etc., other, and human error.

Eleven of the spills were rated as “major.”

The WQCC hearing was held over five days in the middle of May and continues with further testimony in August.

Additional Motion Filed with WQCC to Disqualify McWilliams

In addition to the complaint filed with the State Ethics Commission, a motion has been filed by New Energy Economy, Daniel Tso and Samuel Sage, with the WQCC, requesting McWilliams to disqualify herself from the proceedings on the produced water rule, or in the alternative that the “Commission moves to disqualify Commissioner McWilliams.”

Among the concerns represented in the motion to disqualify McWilliams, the petitioners note that McWilliams is “an active member of the Four Corners Economic Development Center Board” of which New Mexico Oil & Gas Association (“NMOGA”) is a prominent member.

Documents filed with the WQCC, identify NMOGA as a party with interests in the rule-making before the Commission.

The motion states attorneys from the law firm, Montgomery & Andrews, P.A., are appearing before the WQCC, regarding the proposed produced water rule, on behalf of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.

According to the supportive arguments in the motion to disqualify McWilliams, “Montgomery & Andrews, P.A. has represented LOGOS, the firm owned and operated by Jay Paul McWilliams and Krista McWilliams, and is the same legal firm that represents NMOGA, in Case No. WQCC 23-84(R). Both Montgomery & Andrews, P.A. and NMOGA also actively engage in lobbying on oil and gas and energy issues before the New Mexico Legislature.

(A pdf copy of the Motion filed with the WQCC is also embedded at the end of this article)

This reporting will be updated.

Ethics Complaint Against Krista McWilliams Filed with the New Mexico Ethics Commission

Motion to Disqualify Water Quality Control Commission Member Krista McWilliams